Zipline, the American medical drone deliveries company, has announced that it has opened its first distribution centres in Ghana. The announcement, which was made at Omenako in Ghana, will see the drones being used to make medical supplies deliveries 24/7 especially into hard to reach areas.

Ghana coverage map of Zipline drone deliveries
A map by Zipline showing how its drones will make on-demand deliveries across Ghana.

Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, was also present during the launch.

"The revolutionary new service will use drones to make on-demand, emergency deliveries of 148 different vaccines, blood products, and life-saving medications. The service will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from 4 distribution centers—each equipped with 30 drones—and deliver to 2,000 health facilities serving 12 million people across the country. Together, all four distribution centers will make up to 600 on-demand delivery flights a day on behalf of the Government of Ghana. Each Zipline distribution center has the capacity to make up to 500 flights per day, " reads a statement by Zipline.

Medical drone deliveries across Africa

The launch in Ghana is not the first African country in which Zipline operates. During 2016, Rwanda began using Zipline drones which were capable of making up to 150 deliveries per day of life-saving blood to 21 transfusing facilities located in the western half of the country. Later, during 2017, Tanzania partnered with Zipline to launch what they dubbed the world’s largest medical drone delivery service.

Zipline drone flying in Rwanda
Zipline medical delivery drone in Rwanda.

Zipline continues to work with not only countries in Africa, but across the world too in developing drone delivery guidelines as well as looking to enter new markets.

"Zipline is hard at work catching up to demand to expand drone delivery services to developed and developing countries across Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Americas throughout 2019, including the United States. Zipline is working with the U.S. state of North Carolina to launch its medical drone delivery as a part of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) UAS Integration Pilot Program (UASIPP) in Q2 of 2019." Zipline said in their statement.

Criticism in Ghana

Interestingly, the launch hasn't been welcomed by all stakeholders in Ghana.

One of the opposition political parties in Ghana, which has close ties with the Ghanaian Medical Association, has criticized the $12,5 million deal between Zipline and the west African country's government arguing that the money could've rather been used for much needed basic services.

“No one in Ghana should die because they can’t access the medicine they need in an emergency. Every single life in this country is precious. Every mother, every child, every parent, every person. We must do everything within our means to ensure that each and every citizen of Ghana has access to the quality healthcare they deserve. That’s why Ghana is launching the world’s largest drone delivery service. It represents a major step towards giving everyone in this country universal access to lifesaving medicine, ” said ,” said Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, during the launch.

Cover image credit: Zipline drone getting ready to fly.

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